'Hall and Company' go to the village of Shillelagh in County Wicklow to meet Jack Ryan who has been making shillelagh sticks for his entire life, as did his father before him.

The raw material for a shillelagh must be a hardwood, such as blackthorn, oak or holly. Once Jack Ryan has the right piece of wood for the job, it is prepared, cleaned and sand-papered. Making the shillelagh is hard work, as everything is done by hand, using a rasp, hatchet and saw. The finished shillelagh is then varnished.

The bulk of Jack’s work is bought by Americans as a souvenir of their native place. He disagrees that bringing home a shillelagh gives the Irish a bad name abroad. Not all shillelaghs are offensive weapons and the sticks were originally carried by policemen. Jack thinks people today are more educated and do not need a stick to defend themselves.

They wouldn’t know how to walk now, they wouldn’t know how to handle a shillelagh.

Making shillelaghs is an enjoyable pastime for Jack as

It shortens the long winter nights for you when you are sitting on your own. Just doing up the old blackthorns and tarrying in the daytime and doing them up in the night-time, that’s the only hobby you have.

This episode of ‘Hall and Company’ was broadcast on 16 November 1986. The presenter is Frank Hall.

Shillelaghs
A display of Jack Ryan's shillelaghs.